It has been one of the most anticipated TV events of all time, so with three of the final ever six episodes of Game of Thrones having now aired, who’s up for a half-time post-mortem? Pun intended, because after this week’s Battle of Winterfell a significant number of characters are no longer among the living. And, thanks to Arya’s (Maisie Williams) strategic use of the pointy end of her weapon, not part of the Night King’s army either.
But before the eight-seasons-in-the-making war between the people of Westeros and the White Walkers, we were treated to a couple of episodes filled with bittersweet reunions, weapon forging, the sighting of an AWOL direwolf and a Lord of the Rings-style song around the fire. One episode of chess pieces being put into position ahead of the big battle felt appropriate – with a cast the size of Game of Thrones, there are plenty of moving parts to get in place. By the end of Season 8’s second episode, however, it all began to feel a bit like a stalling tactic.
With only six episodes this season, devoting two of those to long-separated characters catching up and the odd bit of sex – and not much else – seemed a little excessive. The biggest thing that actually happened from a storyline point of view was Jon Snow (Kit Harington) finding out his true identity – following a dragon ride that looked like some kind of new-fangled quidditch match – and then telling his aunt/lover the game-changing news. And yet, how exactly that will play out remains to be seen.
Even so, when it did finally come, Episode 3’s movie-length stoush was a huge pay-off. Yes, there were whole sequences in which the action on screen was so dark and so obscured that I couldn’t actually tell what was happening. But that, I’m assuming, was the point, so we could feel something of the disorientation and hopelessness faced by the combined forces of Westeros (except for those following Lena Headey’s Cersei, of course). The Battle of Winterfell was a fight like no other – epic in scale, supernatural in nature and with warfare playing out on several fronts.
Not quite as many people died in Episode 3 as I was expecting, and those who did lose their lives tended to be fan-favourite, second-string characters rather than main players. And although it feels a little morbid to be disappointed at the lack of death, this is Game of Thrones – a show that has made art out of killing off characters. Still, there are three episodes remaining and, presumably, one more battle in which to pack in more tragedy.
So it hasn’t all been thrills and bloodspill so far in Season 8, but what Game of Thrones has delivered is a lot of closure – whether that’s been conversations between characters who haven’t crossed paths in seasons or the brutal end of the Night King’s mission to take over the world. All that remains is to see who ends up on the Iron Throne once and for all.